Conway: Arkansas' Tech Job Magnet

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Apr. 15, 2013 12:00 am  

Richard Howe (Photo by Luke Jones)

The recent movement of publicly traded Inuvo Inc. to Conway is the latest success story for the city’s active push to draw in more technology jobs.

Conway Chamber of Commerce President Brad Lacy said the town has made a concerted effort to cultivate businesses through both tax incentives and infrastructure development.

“We really have to play to what our strengths are,” he said. “Our demographics are very young, very well-educated people. That lends itself to white-collar endeavors. That doesn’t mean we forget about blue collar and manufacturing, and certainly many of those manufacturing operations have significant engineering staff needs as well. So I think it’s just a natural progression of what we’ve attempted to do.”

Lacy said Inuvo has committed to 50 jobs that he described as “very good.”

“These are product managers, software developers, marketing specialists,” said Inuvo CEO Richard Howe. “The lion’s share of these jobs is technical.”

Inuvo is closing its offices in Tampa, Fla., and New York City and focusing all its operations in Conway, where it shares a building with PrivacyStar, another recently imported tech company. Charles Morgan, former CEO of Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock, which was long headquartered in Conway and is still a large operation there, is a major investor in both companies.

Inuvo got $1.75 million from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s quick action closing fund to help move its facilities to Conway.

Similar AEDC incentives have gone to other companies that have moved to Conway in recent years. PrivacyStar, which relocated to downtown Conway in 2012, received income tax credits based on the payroll of new jobs, tax refunds on building material tied to its expansion and $224,000 from the quick action closing fund.

In 2008, Hewlett-Packard got $10 million from the fund and a cash rebate of 5 percent of payroll taxes for five years.

Howe listed several reasons besides incentives for his desire to move Inuvo to Conway.

“One was the university culture here,” he said. “That was encouraging for us. It gives us access to talent. There have been a whole lot of companies that have been built up successfully in university towns.”

With three colleges, the town is often home to a large number of young professionals who need to choose whether to stay in the town or look for jobs elsewhere.



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